By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The final step in approving a $322,595 payment moved forward Tuesday morning for a man who the state of Idaho wrongfully incarcerated for five years and nine months.
The Board of Examiners unanimously approved the payment Tuesday, which will come from the Innocence Fund. Legislators established the fund in 2021 with the approval of the Wrongful Conviction Act.
Joseph LaCroix was wrongfully convicted in Bonneville County on Oct. 3, 2017, of failing to register as a sex offender, a felony crime. On March 8 of this year, the District Court found LaCroix innocent, vacated his conviction, and dismissed the case.
The payment comes after Fourth Judicial District Judge Peter Barton granted LaCroix his certificate of innocence.
Barton wrote that pursuant to Idaho code, LaCroix is entitled to $319,297.74 under the Wrongful Conviction Act. He’s also entitled to $3,298 in reasonable attorney fees.
Under the Wrongful Conviction Act, individuals are entitled to $62,000 for each year of actual imprisonment, including time imprisoned before conviction, according to an Attorney General’s Office letter to the Board of Examiners. The law also states LaCroix is entitled to at least $25,000 for each year on parole.
Idaho Controller Brandon Woolf told the board that the Innocence Fund has been used twice prior to LaCroix’s case, once for Christopher Tapp and once for Charles Fain. Both Fain and Tapp spent decades wrongfully incarcerated.
Tapp received a little more than $1.2 million in damages and Fain received nearly $1.4 million in damages from the Innocence Fund in 2021.
However, because Tapp later received a settlement from Bonneville County, he reimbursed the state for the payment in July of 2022, according to the Controller’s Office. The Wrongful Conviction Act only allows for state damages if the innocent person has not received damages from another government entity.
As of Tuesday, the Innocence Fund had a balance of a little more than $2.45 million.